Most frequent top-of-mind impression of Mormons is polygamy
by Frank Newport
* Americans who are more religious (as measured by frequency of
church attendance) and those who are Protestant have highly negative
views of the Mormon religion. The differences in views of Mormons
among groups defined by their church attendance are significant. There
is a net negative view of -21 points among Americans who attend church
weekly, contrasted with a net positive view of +10 among those who
seldom or never attend church.
* Protestants are significantly more negative in their views than
Catholics, who are the most positive group by religion.
* There are minor partisan differences. Republicans are slightly
more negative in their views of Mormons than are either independents
* There is a major difference by ideological group. Liberals are
extremely negative in their views on a relative basis; 28% have
favorable opinions and 61% unfavorable opinions. By contrast,
conservatives are essentially evenly divided in their views, while
moderates break to the positive side, with 48% favorable and 40%
* Opinions of Mormons are better formed in the West, where the
preponderance of Mormons live, and are slightly more positive than
negative. Only 3% of those living in the West have no opinion whatever
Only 18% of Americans have no opinion or say nothing comes to mind
about the Mormon religion. That fact, plus the specificity of the
open-ended responses, underscores the idea that Americans appear to
have at least some basic concepts or associations about the Mormon
The top-of-mind impressions in general are widely varied, from the
clearly neutral ("Salt Lake City") to the clearly positive ("good
people/kind/caring/strong morals") to the clearly negative ("dislike
their beliefs/don't agree with their doctrine/false teachings").
The two most frequently occurring categories of impressions of Mormons
among those who have unfavorable opinions would appear to be the
long-time association of the religion with polygamy (mentioned by 20%
of those with unfavorable opinions) and top-of-mind impressions based
on the Mormon religion's beliefs and doctrines. These responses
suggest that the negative impression held by many may be a fairly
straightforward result of disagreements on doctrine.
There are some mentions of the Mormon religion's secretive nature, but
most of the rest of the impressions of those with an unfavorable
opinion are actually either neutral or positive.
Even among the group of Americans who have favorable opinions, Gallup
finds that polygamy is the most frequently mentioned single impression
of the religion. Officially, the LDS church has outlawed polygamy
since 1890, and those who practice it are excommunicated. But the
historical connection of the Mormon church with polygamy, more recent
highly publicized cases of polygamists in the news, and perhaps the
HBO show "Big Love" have kept the connection fresh in people's minds.
Otherwise, these more positively inclined people talk about the
positive lifestyles of Mormons, make some comments in a more positive
vein about their religious doctrine, and also mention specific people,
places, and things associated with the religion, in particular Salt
Lake City and Utah. Six percent spontaneously mention Republican
presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Two percent mention the singing
group The Osmonds.
Read the entire results at